Hudson Potts was known as Hudson Sanchez when drafted 24th overall by the Padres in 2016 out of a Texas High school. With apologies to Mr. Potts, who isn’t listed on MLB.com’s updated top 30 Padres prospects list, what’s most interesting is less his prospect pedigree as much as the circumstances surrounding his draft position.
Most public prospect evaluators had Potts ranked in the 60s at best among draft eligible players, with MLB.com ranking him at 91. He shows a strong arm and has some power potential, but everyone I could find agreed he doesn’t stand much of a chance of staying at shortstop. Well, everyone except the Padres.
Hey, here’s the thing: Nobody really knows nothin’ about these kids.
I don’t mean that literally, of course. There are really, really smart people at places like Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, ESPN, and MLB (et. cetera) who know a ton about these guys—they know home-to-first times and statistics and what the scouts are saying and how many pets each player has had. What they don’t know—and, really, what they can’t know—is how these players are going to develop. Are they going to stay healthy? Are they going to find that third pitch or that perfect swing? Are they going to be the low-ceiling pitcher who turns into Jake Arrieta or the fringy bat who becomes Paul Goldschmidt? Are they going to get sidetracked with fame and money?
Go back to the 2009 draft (or any draft). The Nationals took Stephen Strasburg first overall that year, which was, at the time, a super-obvious pick. And what a pick it was! Strasburg’s been worth 17 WAR, he’s currently one of the best pitchers in the game, and he recently signed a relatively team-friendly contract extension. Whew . . . great pick!
Except it was a terrible pick, because a player named Mike Trout was available. In fact, Trout was available when the Padres took Donavan Tate third overall and when the Orioles took Matt Hobgood fifth overall and when the A’s took Grant Green 13th overall and when the Diamondbacks took Bobby Borchering 16th overall and . . . [insert any team and any pick before No. 25 here]. That year Baseball America’s scouting report compared Trout to Aaron Rowand while mentioning that his bat was “not a sure thing, but he has a chance to be a solid-average hitter with average or better power.” Mike Trout was once just another guy.